Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Pythagorean, 8/27/2012

Just another humdrum week in the middle of another humdrum season. Nothing notable happening. Move along, folks, nothing to see here. Nothing at all...
  • Looking for commentary on this past week's (utterly irrelevant) 2-4 record? You're going to have to look elsewhere.
  • As has become increasingly obvious over the past month, the 2012 Red Sox are not going anywhere. For whatever reason. And this follows the historic collapse of September 2011. So rather than letting the season end with a whimper, they looked around, and decided that they needed to rebuild. And took steps to begin that process. With a trade that almost defies classification. I simply cannot remember a team ever unloading that many All Stars and that much salary in one transaction as the Red Sox did on Saturday, moving Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett (along with Nick Punto) to the Dodgers for a James Loney, a collection of minor league talent, and a spectacular increase in payload flexibility.
  • Let me leave no ambiguity about this - I love the trade.
  • I don't know what Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa are going to be when they grow up. But, having decided that the team as constituted wasn't going to work (which may or may not be true, but it clearly hadn't worked so far), management took steps to rebuild. The Crawford contract was an albatross, Beckett's less so but still bad, and Gonzalez', while not as bad as the others, still a huge flexibity-limiting obstacle to re-tooling. I would have thought it a good deal if they'd gotten nothing back. Instead, they got two reportedly top pitching prospects.
  • The collapse that began in September of 2011 has continued. And it's shocking to contemplate. At the end of play on August 31, 2011, the Boston Red Sox had an 83-52 record, the best record in the American league by 1 1/2 games over the New York Yankees and 7 games over the Texas Rangers. Since then, under two different managers, they've gone 68-87. Despite outscoring their opposition, they've been 19 games under .500 over a period encompassing nearly a full season. They've underperformed their Pythagorean winning percentage by almost 10 full games, playing .439 ball against a .501 projected record. They've scored 5.02 runs/game while allowing 5.00 runs/game. If it sounds, from that, as if the offense has been better than the pitching, well, that's true. But it's also misleading. In over 25% of their games (40), they've failed to score 3 runs. The result of all of this is that they were 15-23 in games decided by one run, 13-21 in games decided by 2 runs, and 15-10 in games decided by 7 runs or more.
  • Beckett's taken a lot of abuse, much of it well-earned. But not all. Whatever happened in the clubhouse, whatever part Beckett may or may not have had in it, it's not Josh Beckett's fault that Jon Lester and John Lackey were awful in September, that the offense couldn't score more than a couple of runs unless they were scoring double-digits. He's responsible for his own bad performance; he's not responsible for anyone else's. He was a legitimate Cy Young candidate a year ago today; he's been cannon fodder ever since. Is he done? I don't know. It's possible that he'll pitch well in LA. But that seems likelier than him pitching well in Boston. He's got two years and a lot of money left on his deal. It was obviously time for him to go.
  • It's possible that, if they'd not traded for Beckett, they'd have won a World Series or two by allocating their resources differently. On the other hand, they've got that 2007 World Series trophy, and Beckett, who could (and possibly should) have won the Cy Young that year, was a key component of that team and that win. That buys him a great deal of affection from this Red Sox fan, and that doesn't all fade away with the subsequent bad performance.
  • I touched on the Crawford contract last week. It was a bad deal, and despite the cognitive dissonance that led me to love the signing, I recognized it as a bad deal at the time. But part of approving of the deal was the expectation that he'd be worth it at least for the first couple of years. Instead he's been bad. Not "not living up to the deal" bad, not "not what you expected from him" bad, but bad. "Not legitimate Major League -performance" bad. In a Red Sox uniform, the frequently injured Crawford hit .260/.292/.419/.711. Unacceptable at $2 million per year, they paid him an order of magnitude more than that.
  • Unlike the other two members of the "Horace Greeley triumvirate" ("Go West, young man!"), Gonzalez' contract isn't horrifying to contemplate. And, all things considered, if they could have done the deal while keeping Gonzalez, they would have. Obviously, there's no reason whatsoever that the Dodgers, or anyone else, would have taken on the Beckett and Crawford contracts without good reason for doing so. So they had to trade Gonzalez. But Gonzalez (good) is a reasonable price to pay to offload the bad (Beckett) and ugly (Crawford) contracts that would have prevented them from doing anything significant to improve.
  • The Adrian Gonzalez era ends in a blaze of something less than glory (.067/.067/.067/.133). Of course, that was only three games. For the whole season, it was still somewhat less than glorious (.300/.343/.469/.812). Those aren't awful numbers, of course, until you place them in the context of a slow-footed first baseman making superstar money in what should be his peak years. In fact, his entire Red Sox performance (.321/.382/.513/.895), while quite good, doesn't quite live up to the cost, in both money and prospects, that they gave up to get him.
  • Ok. One piece of baseball commentary. As a long-time believer that "clubhouse chemistry" is both overrated and more a result than a cause of performance, and given that the playoffs are now a dream for another year, and given that I wasn't sitting in the stands, Saturday's collapse against KC amused me. On Thursday, they had an epic meltdown against the Angels, giving up a big lead, and eventually losing in extra innings. The kind of thing that underperforming teams do. The kind of game frequently attributed to teams with no "guts," no "heart," bad clubhouse chemistry. The kind of performance that is frequently attributed to bad clubhouse chemistry. On Saturday, the cleaned house, with the single player most associated with toxic clubhouse atmosphere shipped out of town. And then, to celebrate, they had an epic meltdown on Saturday night, giving up a big lead, and eventually losing in extra innings.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - A good week for Dustin Pedroia (.357/.419/.714/1.134) is slightly overshadowed by another excellent performance from Pedro Ciriaco (.464/.483/.643/1.126).
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - I can either jointly give it to Vincente Padilla and Craig Breslow, the only pitchers on the staff not to give up a run, or I can just not give it out this week. I choose the latter.
  • More important than either of those, though, is the Red Sox Excutive of the Week - GM Ben Cherington, who managed to divest himself of $250+ million of future contract commitments whose value would almost certainly have topped out at half of that, and picked up highly rated pitching prospects in the process.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/27/2012
New York4.84(3)4.06(4)0.58(2)745374530
Tampa Bay4.21(10)3.65(1)0.566(3)72557057-2
Los Angeles4.7(5)4.51(8)0.519(8)666266620
Kansas City4.17(11)4.56(9)0.458(12)58685670-2

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9468
Tampa Bay8973

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9468
Tampa Bay9072

Standings for the week
Tampa Bay3.5(9)2.33(1)0.677(3)4233-1
Los Angeles5.5(4)5(9)0.543(6)33421
Kansas City4(7)5.17(11)0.385(10)24240
New York3(12)4(7)0.371(11)24240

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